TEN

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Mark was in his office, reviewing a contract to purchase another much-needed warehouse. The police investigation was dragging on, tying up their insurance claim. In the meantime, storage space was becoming an issue.

There was a beep. He kept reading as he picked up the phone. "Yes, Lisa?"

"There is a Lieutenant R—"

A scuffle sounded over the intercom just before his door flew open—and the lieutenant marched in. It was a rainy day and she must have walked some distance without an umbrella, her dark hair slick and flattened, her jacket soaked and clinging to her torso.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Spinelli. I couldn't stop her," his secretary said, casting a dirty look at the silent cop standing in front of her. "Should I call security?"

He raised a hand to his perturbed employee. "I'm fine, Lisa. You can go."

With a "humph" Lisa left, pulling the door closed behind her.

Once it clicked shut, the lieutenant lifted her gun from its holster and aimed it straight at him. "I want to know why this happened," she demanded. "Even if you incriminate yourself, I damn well want to know why Jack died. What was he doing in your warehouse?"

"It's Lieutenant Robins, right?" Mark said. As if he wasn't sure. As if she hadn't been on his mind these past weeks.

He stood and rounded to the front of his desk. She stepped away, putting some space between his arms' reach and the gun. Ignoring the weapon pointed at his chest, he eased back, bending his knees until he was half-sitting on the wood surface behind him, curling his fingers around its beveled edge.

"You can put that away. I've learned enough about your background to know you are not going to shoot an unarmed, innocent man."

"You've been looking into my background?" she hissed through her teeth, readjusting her grip.

"You told me you were coming after me. I had to know what I was in store for."

There was no response—just a lifeless, eerie calm rolling off of her.

He sighed, recognizing the anguish of losing a loved one. "It bothered me that you thought I was responsible, so I did a little digging of my own."

She shuffled her feet, skepticism evident in her features.

In the silence he thought, Maybe this isn't the right time to tell her the truth. She might not be ready to handle it.

Then, much to his surprise, she put away the pistol and crossed her arms at her chest. He took that as a, Go on.

"I can't be absolutely certain why your partner died—"

"He was murdered."

Mark saw the pain wash over her face and nodded without commitment. "I do know he was working for us on the side—for Gus to be exact. He was a runner."

Her blank look had him elaborating with, "Gus Chilvati Jr., he's Augustus's—"

"I know who he is," she snapped.

Interesting . . . must be her partner's dirty laundry that has her zoning out. Runners moved product from the point of entry to the distributors. Cops were ideal hires for these dangerous transports. They knew who was being watched, which areas of the city to avoid on any given night. And there were plenty of them out there willing to do it. For the right price. "I'm supposed to believe you had no idea he was corrupt?" he said roughly.

"You're lying. I should have known better." She turned to leave.

Let her go, he said to himself. "Wait."

She stopped and watched him circle his desk.

Mark pulled the bound report from his briefcase and walked it over to her. "Take a look at this. It might help, but don't tell anyone I led you in the right direction. And be careful who you trust." He stared down at her, surprised to find himself making such an effort. He should have kicked her out of his office as soon as she arrived instead of providing her with information that could be dangerous—for both of them.

She grabbed it out of his hand and flipped through some of the pages. He waited, looking her over, wondering if she were the kind of woman a man would change his life for. Her partner had obviously thought so.

"From what I've heard, he was trying to get out of the business. Maybe that had something to do with you? Getting out is a lot harder than getting in, though. Even for a crooked cop."

She visibly stiffened, slapped the report closed . . . and tossed it. Right at his head.

He nabbed it out of the air just in time and shrugged. "Suit yourself. Ignore the truth."

"Jack would never work for people like you."

"Did he ever tell you where he went on all those evenings he spent out? Maybe he wasn't the golden boy you thought he was. Money is a seductive thing and greedy men are easily lured."

Without warning she drew back and punched him in the face. Reflexes had him turning away at the last second, diluting much of the impact, but it was still a clean strike, well executed, with a good follow-through.

She didn't hit like a girl. Totally unexpected.

Mark leaned forward, irritated, impatient, tempted to change his mind about helping. Grabbing her wrist, he thrust the report back in her hand. "Read it," he barked, letting her go with a shove.

She took a few steps back to regain her footing, but her glare didn't move from his.

Without another word the lieutenant stomped her way over to the office door and tore it open, but she kept the report with her, tucking it inside her jacket on the way out.

"So she does listen," he muttered, rubbing at the spot where she'd made contact. She's got some muscle too, he thought, shifting his jaw left and right.

END OF CHAPTER TEN

Thanks for reading on. Any predictions on what's going to happen next?

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